Our earth is a delicate, sensitive, living, breathing organism that needs the care and attention we have not given it. Taking it for granted and wishing to control nature have been the markers of modern life. However, ancestral knowledge always recognized the importance of maintenance of that ecosystem that supports our life. In Seed: The Untold Story, Directors Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz take us back to rethink that important relationship of communing with the earth that feeds us.
“Seeds are living embryos. They have a lifespan,” says a farmer in a voice over. There is a deep connection between these farmers and their seeds, which they see as living things that start a movement, blossoming into life and then sustenance. That personal connection and the stewardship of seeds is what’s been lost as people move further away from their connection to those seeds. They make the case that these organic things are the beginning of life, the beginning of everything. That deep connection was cut through the “Green Revolution,” which represents the creation of the embeddedness of capitalism with agriculture, including the use of chemicals, pesticides and mass-produced seed. That phenomenon is also related to the fact that today many of our seeds are endangered.
The documentary presents interviews with experts who have looked into the perils of industrialization of agriculture and the use of pharmaceuticals in a process that naturally used to provide the foundation of indigenous cultures and a way of life that sought harmony between people and the land that they live in. The disconnectedness has not only harmed people whose way of life depends on their connection to the land, but it has also harmed the rest of us who now are lacking that primal connection to the earth. We have succumbed to big interest and that has contaminated our food and created a food supply that is devoid of that spiritual connection. Food is not only meant for survival, it is one of those things that can makes us stronger, healthier and help us thrive as human beings.
For those of us who may think that Seed: The Untold Story sounds like a hippie tale, they need to watch and re-think how delimited and narrow that perception is. The wealth of not only experts but also everyday people who have come to the conclusion that we are not better off, but in fact, the current state of affairs has inflicted us with disease and other economic problems. The shots of wildlife and seeds that are included with the many interviews that make up the content in this documentary make us realize that we live in a beautiful world, and it is our responsibility to take care of that which makes our life richer.
There is a definite call to action in Seed: The Untold Story, but this is not a patronizing, preachy documentary. It is a story of that cannot talk and cannot defend itself. It also makes the case that food is a lot more than calories, and our connection to it can ensure that we lead healthier, more fulfilled lives. From the villages in India, to agricultural workers in Oaxaca, Iowa and Hawaii, there are many voices that Siegel and Betz have managed to put together to compose one of the most heartwarming pleas to return to a more humane way of growing and distributing food. The tone of the documentary feels more Henry David Thoreau and less Michael Pollan, but its simple message is important enough to deserve a viewing.
Seed: The Untold Story runs 94 minutes long. It is not rated and is being released nationwide in limited release. It opens in New York on Friday, Sept. 23 and in Los Angeles, Sept. 30. For screenings in your area, please click here. A screener link was provided by Collective Eye Films for the purposes of this review.
UPDATE: This documentary arrives in South Florida for a one-night-only screening at O Cinema Miami Shores, on Dec. 17. Details here.